Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Necessary Evil of Small Talk

Sometimes I dread going to the salon to get my haircut.  You're in there for a good hour and a half, and its understood by all parties involved that you will make the necessary small talk the entire time as to eliminate any awkward silences.

So, I prep myself ahead of time.  I think of things to talk about with the lady who washes my hair.  The weather, my new house, and oh, how is her boyfriend doing?  My hair stylist, luckily, cuts the hair of a dozen people in my family, so family news updates are encouraged.  I can talk about my grandma and my sisters and my mom, and she'll be in the "know" already.

Still, there are times I run out of things to say, and I'll sit there awkwardly as the music is pumping and the scissors snip to the beat.  Then, my stylists will say, "So, how's work?"

I'm really bad at small talk.  Like most females, we often find ourselves in situations which require us to talk about random "safe" things.  Skip politics, religion, or friend drama.  Just friendly, surface-level discussions that have just enough drama and laughter to keep things interested.  Some people are really good at it, and others, like myself, struggle through it.

If I had my way, I would just skip the small talk.  Get straight to the nitty gritty.  Tell me what you're arguing about with your boyfriend.  Or let me tell you how my husband and I are learning about love languages.  Or can I vent about this one person for a minute?  I would much rather talk about what's emotionally and internally draining me or uplifting me at the moment rather than stuff that feels plastic-y on my tongue.

I hate being superficial with strangers, even though we know nothing about each other.  Yet, even I would feel uncomfortable walking up to someone I just met at a party and spilling the beans on the latest fight I had with my husband.  You just don't do that.

I have become to appreciate the necessity of small talk.  It's the ice breaker that builds the bonds of trust to allow for deeper, more intimate conversation.  I just hate wading through those mucky waters until I can get to solid ground, and sometimes I may hurry the process along more quickly than other people would like.

So, how do we make small talk more authentic?  How do we make it less awkward and more purposeful?

Or am I forcing the issue by just asking those questions?

There are definitely places where small talk is necessary: the work place, the salon, the lobby, the cash register.  You don't need to establish a meaning relationship with the cashier, but some idle chit chat makes waiting for them to finish ringing up your things a little less awkward and a little more personal.

But still, could we stand to be a little more personal?

I understand the necessity of small talk in our society; it's just that sometimes I wonder if it is as necessary as we think.  There seems to be some places where you aren't socially allowed to graduate from small talk, and you just end up talking about nonsense the entire time.  Perhaps its just the introvert in me.

I don't really have any answers to the questions that I've posed.  I guess I just want to ask, "How far do we dare go in our everyday conversations?"

Soli Deo Gloria.

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